DuPont Industrial Biosciences: Biofuels Digest’s 2015 5-Minute Guide

5-Minute-Guide-logoSeveral years ago, DuPont purchased Danisco and its Genencor unit and added their expertise into a new unit: DuPont Industrial Biosciences. This integration allows DuPont to optimize its bioscience technology and commercialization capabilities with Genencor’s biofuel enzyme technology.

DuPont has developed a three-part strategy to deliver these new technologies to the growing biofuels market to help biofuels become more competitive with petroleum. The strategy includes:

(1) improving existing ethanol production through differentiated agriculture seed products and crop protection solutions as well as through improved bioprocessing aids and enzymes that allow animals to get the most out of valuable ethanol co-products;

(2) developing, commercializing, and licensing new technologies to allow conversion of cellulose to ethanol; and

(3) developing and supplying advanced biofuels, such as biobutanol, a performance drop-in fuel easily integrated with the existing liquid fuel system.

In addition, as part of DuPont Industrial Biosciences, DuPont Pioneer helps farmers by delivering high-yielding products, supported with proven expertise and innovative services to meet growing demand from the biofuels industry. Pioneer offers more than 230 High Total Fermentable (HTF) ethanol hybrids that increase the fermentable starch content of corn plants for greater outputs. Many ethanol hybrids contain Herculex insect protection traits to reduce insect damage to grain and help prevent molds and mycotoxins. This helps ensure a consistent supply of high-yielding, high-quality grain. DuPont Crop Protection further helps growers produce and maximize the yield and quality of biofeedstocks including sugarcane and corn with solutions that help reduce weeds and control insect and disease.


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The Situation

Right now, everything is aimed at the opening of DuPont’s first commercial cellulosic ethanol plant, but it would not be likely that there will be much hoopla over mechanical completion or the start of cellulosic ethanol production. Everyone is expecting DuPont to keep a tight lid on the project until it is satisfied that the plant is hitting its production goals.

It’s a massive project for the cellulosic industry, and will be the world’s largest faciliuty when open. The economic impact of the project will range far beyond its effect on energy independence. To supply the corn stover for its plant, DuPont will contract with more than 500 local farmers to gather, store and deliver over 375,000 dry tons of stover per year into the Nevada facility. If stover is priced at $50-$60 per ton, that will generate $1.75-$22.5 million in additional income in a 30 mile radius around the new facility, where stover will be harvested off of 190,000 acres. In addition to the estimated 60 full-time plant operations jobs, there will be over 150 individuals involved in the collection, stacking, transportation and storage of the stover feedstock seasonally during each harvest.

Meanwhile, DuPont is seeking partners for joint ventures for cellulosic ethanol production, including entities from the U.S., China, Brazil, Europe, and Southeast Asia. While potential partners remained unnamed, business director for biorefineries Jan Koninckx has indicated that interested parties include fuel companies and agribusinesses. “DuPont would take a minority stake and…we would basically take an active role in setting production up” in the joint ventures furthered Koninckx. The company is currently investing more than $200 million to build a cellulosic ethanol plant in Nevada, Iowa. Licensing agreements would include equipment and DuPont’s plant design, and DuPont would supply the enzymes needed to produce the fuel, Mr. Koninckx said.

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Top Past Milestones

Late in October 2014, DuPont said that “We continue to make progress on our Nevada, Iowa biorefinery and expect mechanical completion in Q1 of 2015, followed by a commissioning period that will take several months as we ensure safety, quality and performance to meet our rigorous standards.”

In October 2014, the Republic of Macedonia today joined a MOU to facilitate the development of the cellulosic ethanol market in the Pelagonia region between Ethanol Europe and DuPont.

According to DuPont, “This collaboration agreement brings together three critical components for the preparation of detailed feasibility studies for a commercial scale 2G ethanol plant to supply the European market.” Macedonia’s Minister for Foreign Investments Bill Plaveski told media following a signing ceremony in Skopja that “The project includes a construction of modern biorefinery with a capacity of 100 million liters. The project, a five-year investment of EUR 250 million, will create 1,000 jobs. The plant’s construction should start in 2016 and be completed for two years.”

Also in October 2014, In Switzerland, DuPont and Procter & Gamble announced a collaboration to use cellulosic ethanol in North American Tide laundry detergent, a first of its kind. Tide Cold Water will be the first brand in the world to blend cellulosic ethanol in a scalable and commercial way. Ethanol has long been a key ingredient in the Tide formulation, allowing for stability of the detergent formula and better washing performance. The substitution of the current corn based ethanol with cellulosic is the latest innovation in the companies’ 30-year partnership, making it easier for consumers to make sustainable choices in their everyday lives. DuPont will produce this renewable, cellulosic ethanol at the company’s new biorefinery, currently under construction in Nevada, Iowa. Once completed, the plant will be the world’s largest bioethanol refinery, producing 30 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year – a process with zero net carbon emissions.

In April 2013, USDA Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and DuPont signed an agreement to establish guidelines for corn stover collection. The agreement directs the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service to work with DuPont and Iowan farmers for give years to set standards for the percentage of stover that can be collected without diminishing soil quality. DuPont’s $200M plant will use 375,000 tons of stover annually when it opens in 2014.

In December 2013, Arcadia Biosciences and DuPont Pioneer announced their intention to collaborate to develop enabling technology to help manage pollen flow in sorghum. This technology will help facilitate the development and deployment of agronomic and quality traits in the crop.

Under the agreement, Arcadia receives exclusive global rights to develop specified Pioneer technology for use in grain, forage, sweet, and biofuel sorghum types. The potential exists for numerous agronomic performance and quality traits to be developed and commercialized in sorghum. This collaboration between Arcadia and Pioneer is focused on developing core technology that will enable the deployment of such traits.

3 Major Milestone Goals

1. Commercializing cellulosic ethanol through the planned DuPont cellulosic ethanol biorefinery in Nevada, Iowa

2. The licensing of the cellulosic ethanol technology produced at the DuPont Nevada, Iowa biorefinery

3. BioIsoprene Monomer: DuPont builds relationships to enable further pilot and commercial development of BioIsoprene monomer, to be used in the manufacture of synthetic rubber for tires and the potential for various other applications, such as specialty elastomers and adhesives .

Business Model

• Merchant enzyme supplier to ethanol/biofuel industry

• Integrated solutions provider in cellulosic ethanol industry through DuPont Cellulosic Ethanol Program

Competitive Edge

DuPont has a unique position in the industry because its offerings span farm, feed and fuel. For example, they are able to build on Genencor’s expertise in designing and operating cell factories, leverage Pioneer’s knowledge of production agriculture and relationship with growers, and apply DuPont’s capabilities in engineering and advanced materials.

Research, or Manufacturing Partnerships or Alliances:

DuPont has a 50/50 joint venture with BP Biofuels called Butamax Advanced Biofuels which is working to develop and commercialize biobutanol. Isobutanol is a molecule that is similar to gasoline, and can be readily dropped into the current liquid transportation infrastructure, without changes to the refiner or distribution. Biobutanol is deployed through retrofit of current ethanol facilities, so does not require building entirely new facilities. It also can be blended at a higher rate than ethanol into gasoline under current regulations. So far in 2012, Butamax has signed up seven existing ethanol producers with a total of 11 plants for its early adopters program to convert their facilities to biobutanol production. Butamax will begin retrofit of the first facility in 2013.

DuPont also has a partnership with The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company. Through this collaboration, DuPont and Goodyear have been developing a first of its kind biobased process to produce isoprene (BioIsoprene™) from renewable raw materials.

DuPont’s Stover Harvest Collection Project involves collaboration with farmers, DuPont Pioneer biomass supply chain experts and Iowa State University, as well as custom harvesters and equipment manufacturers. It is focused on standardizing equipment and techniques for collection, transport, storage and pre-processing of stover, while ensuring stewardship of farms and achieving economics of the biorefinery. In 2010, DuPont began the project by partnering with six leading Iowa corn growers and conducting a pilot-scale stover harvest on 2,500 acres. The project has grown to partnering with more than 100 corn growers for 2012 and harvesting approximately 25,000 acres of stover, representing about one seventh of our first biorefinery’s annual commercial feedstock requirement.

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